Whitespace E: On Psychology and Godly Counsel
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- On Psychology and Godly Counsel -

by Lincoln Sayger

1218 wds.
First published on August 23, 2004

It has been said that with great power comes great responsibility.

Let me say first that I am not opposed to the practice of psychology. I have two friends who are pursuing careers in psychology, and I support them in this pursuit.

I was started on my thinking about this subject by a radio broadcast I heard some time ago. The broadcast was claiming that psychology began from atheistic roots, that it incorporates demonic methods, etc. I wondered about this, and I made a broad arc in my thinking. At first, I wondered about the accuracy of the book being touted in the broadcast. Then, I thought about psychology, incorporating into my thinking some of the ideas that were discussed. Finally, I came to what is now my thinking on the subject. It is my final conclusions I share here.

One claim mentioned in the broadcast was that psychology has roots in atheistic thinking. This threw me for a short time, but I realized later that the history of all branches of medicine contains some things that are ungodly. Considering psychology in the broadest definition, it matters not one iota where its roots are. Godly counsel is a benefit to people. God made the human mind a very powerful apparatus, capable by its thoughts of shaping behaviors without conscious control and even of causing physiological changes in the human body, at least. It is therefore proper that Godly counsel should be applied to the human mind wherever a person's mind has become distorted by an unhealthy worldview. Such worldviews would include, among many other things, an improper acceptance of guilt for things over which a person had no control, or a belief that mankind was not created by Almighty God. At this point, if not before, many will break with my ideas because they do not accept that God has any place in psychology. I will counter that psychology has no business tinkering with a person's mind outside of the guidance of the Holy Spirit, absent both basic principles and direction of a specific action. We are "fearfully and wonderfully made," and a man who tries to shape the mind of another, trusting wholly in his own understanding is likely to do more harm than good, if any good at all. Every person belongs to God, and to destroy the mind of another person, by carelessness or by malicious intent, is a sin.

Another claim was that psychology incorporates demonic methods. In particular, the technique of visualization was discussed rather thoroughly. I'll mention first what I remember being said and afterward discuss my thoughts on the matter. Visualization was described as a demonic method because of its similarity to the concepts of conjuring. In the strictest sense of the word, this is correct, but I will use the word summoning, instead, as summoning is more properly related to spirits. One thing that was mentioned was the practice of some supposedly Christian counsellors of having a person visualize Christ's presence with them in difficult situations. The problem with this practice was said to be that the person then puts faith in the mental image of Christ rather than in the words of Christ that He is with us always. It is also claimed that the practice reinforces the bad habit of trusting not in the unseen but relying on the seen. The guests on the broadcast seemed to go further, to claim that a Christian should never visualize things mentally. Regressive therapy was mentioned and discussed: it is possible for a person to be coaxed, through the use of visualization, into remembering events that never happened or into remembering events differently than they happened ("repressed memories").

I agree with some of these claims. I agree that visualizing Christ is not a spiritually healthy practice. Faith should accept the word of God without requiring a visual confirmation. God has given us plenty of non-visual confirmations of His word. I also agree that the distortion of a person's memories is a very real possibility and that a wicked person could easily do it to a vulnerable person. The techniques of brainwashing have been used for many years, and very sadly, some psychologists do practice them on their patients.

I do not, however, agree that picturing something in one's mind is always a bad thing. It is possible to use therapy to accurately fill in the details of actual events. Care must be taken that the wording of the therapist's questions does not suggest one thing or another, but totally-open-ended questions should bring accurate memories into their proper places. Of course, when dealing with memory, only outside corroboration can verify the accuracy of a memory. Visualization is also a useful and even necessary technique for any inventor. It saves time in building a physical model if the inventor can imagine the model in his or her head and see a flaw in the design. It makes a richer story when an author visualizes the layout of a room. It can help to solve a mystery if one visualizes the actions of the parties involved. Police investigators sometimes act out a sequence of events to prove or disprove a theory, and everyone can use the same technique mentally to better understand some events. So, I do not believe that all visualization is demonic. Like many other things, Satan distorts something good to make evil. God gave us the ability to picture things in our minds, and when we use that ability properly, we are doing good. When we use it improperly, we do evil.

What, then, is the final conclusion? I conclude that proper psychology must begin at Godly principles, including these: Every person is created in the image of God. Sin affects our minds and bodies. After repenting and asking forgiveness, a person doesn't need to carry guilt about a sin.

When psychology is practiced within the principles of God's word and in the guidance of the Holy Spirt, healing is done. When psychology is practiced in an atheistic attitude, great damage can result. Psychology should not be shunned by Christians because of the evil in this world: Godly counsel is healing words. However, psychology poses one great danger: There are good psychologists and bad ones. If one is careful about listening to the right voices, and if the counsel given matches the principles of God's word, psychology is helpful. The danger is that those who need it most are the ones least able to discern whether the counsel is Godly and wise. It therefore falls to a stable friend or relative to guide a person into Godly counsel and away from unwise words. I think that counselling should not be done one-on-one. A person being counselled should have a trusted and wise person along in any counselling. The Bible says that in the multitude of counsellors, there is safety. This is why abusive people try to isolate their victims. Listening solely to one source of information makes you a slave to that source. Therefore, those entering the practice of psychology should encourage their patients to seek counsel from a second wise and trusted person. If these and other Biblical principles are followed, psychology, like most things, can be a great tool for God's healing hand in this dark and sinful world.

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